Northern Italian Bike Tour

As always, the two of us traveled on our own, which costs much less than going with a group. However, you have to carry your own luggage and hotels in Italy turned out to be more expensive than expected: 80,000 to 180,000 lira per night for two with $1 = 2,100 lira. The low end hotel price is usually without private bath, air conditioning or breakfast; the high end generally includes those. We prefer cheaper hotels, but sometimes could not get them. We did not carry camping gear on this trip. Much of this route is covered in a video tape available from www.eurocycle.com. There is also a group version done by www.ExperiencePlus.com.

The route that we did (Chianti hills in Tuscany) turned out to be hillier than expected and the weather in August was much hotter than expected (up to 40 C / 104 F). We biked fairly short distances (30 to 60 km most days) and usually started soon after sunrise so that we could arrive by noon and take a siesta. Some of the grades are 10%; the trip is more difficult than the distances would indicate. Recommended time of year for this trip is May, June, July, September or October.

We flew into Venice, cycled to Ravenna - Florence - Sienna - Lucca - Pisa - Livorno. From there we took a ferry to Bastia, Corsica and spent three days on the beach, then ferry to Nice and flew back from there. These were good air connections, using a nonstop Seattle - Amsterdam flight. The only really bad experience was a rough ferry crossing on Saturday; about half the people on board were throwing up. The Mediterranean isn't often that rough.

A few Italian cities, such as Ravenna, have free bicycle programs. Residents or tourists (at the tourist office) can get the key for a public bicycle which you can use around town. In flat cities such as Ravenna, Faenza, Florence and Pisa, lots of the local people get around by bicycle. On the hilly back-roads, you see lots of Italian sports cyclists on Saturday or Sunday mornings. From a cyclist's point of view, Italian are much better drivers than Americans. They respect bikes and are patient about waiting to pass on narrow winding roads.

The weather in Corsica and Nice is not as oppressively hot as in Italy and the hotel prices are lower.

Date

Night in:

Km

Miles

Comment

12-Aug

air

11-Aug flight delayed 1 day by mechanical problems

13-Aug

Venice

0

0

A very special city

14-Aug

Venice

0

0

15-Aug

Chioggio/Sottomarina

25

16

Ferry to Lido and pleasant biking. Sottomarina is a seaside vacation place for Italians; few foreigners.

16-Aug

Ravenna

108

67

3 hour layover at noon due to 104F heat

17-Aug

Ravenna

38

23

Visited mosaics and went to the beach

18-Aug

Faenza

39

24

Morning biking; siesta; afternoon sightseeing

19-Aug

Ronta

64

40

Over the Apennines; 913 m; bike from 6:45 to 1:15

20-Aug

Florence

44

27

Pleasant climb, then view from Fiesole

21-Aug

Florence

0

0

Long lines for the standard attractions (Uffizi, Duomo); we had seen them before and had no lines for other outstanding museums.

22-Aug

Greve in Chianti

33

20

A tough day; underestimated the hills and heat.

23-Aug

Siena

48

30

Climb to 578 m Castellina

24-Aug

Siena

0

0

Stayed with Servas host and explored the old city

25-Aug

San Gimagnano

40

25

Via Monteriggioni

26-Aug

Lari

58

36

Servas visit; first part was uphilly; then down and flat but hot.

27-Aug

Lucca

51

31

Visited old walled town after siesta

28-Aug

Livorno

60

37

Afternoon in Pisa

29-Aug

Bravone, Corsica

5

3

Ferry: Lv Livorno 8:15; Ar Bastia 10:15

30-Aug

Bravone

0

0

Rented a car and hung out on the beach

31-Aug

Bravone

0

0

Stayed at Bagheera

1-Sep

Nice

3

2

Ferry delayed 3 hours; very rough crossing; arrived just before dark.

2-Sep

Seattle

33

20

8km to Nice airport; biked home from Seatac

Total:

648

401